Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day 8, Central Java: Some things you get used to, and some things you don't

Today's primary destination was Prambanan, the Hindu temple complex just to the east of Yogyakarta (yes, the same location where we attended the ballet last night). We arranged three hours of car service through the hotel to get us there and back.

Even arriving at the early-ish hour of 8:30, we found the parking lot full of buses. It was Sunday, there were lots of local groups--including one specifically there to find foreign tourists and practice their English. We were more than happy to talk with them for a bit, keeping in mind that we did have a three-hour window with our driver and we wanted to be able to take in all the sites in the complex.

Prambanan, itself, was quite crowded, but still very impressive--tall, ornate, different in style than Buddhist Borobudur, and in some ways more photogenic due to its textures of structure. From a distance, it reminds you of a series of sand castles on the beach, but up close it is more defined and distinct in its style and far more impressive (like Wat Arun in Bankgok--kind of "beige" from a distance but once you're on it, wow!).

We fielded numerous requests for photos. The joke began to get a little old even at Borobudur, but here it was a little over the top. I mean, come on: We're pretty average middle-aged Americans. It's a bit of a fine line between being a good sport and being able to enjoy one's own visit to the site.  

Eventually, we were ready to get away from the crowds, so we started walking toward the other temples on the site. Along the way, we stopped to watch a school "teamwork" competition, including one activity that involved picking up and carrying a ball across the field and depositing it in a cup without touching it.

The first two temples (Lumbung and Bubrah) were mostly ruined. The furthest, Candi Sewu, was a real delight--not only for its scale (it is the second-largest Buddhist temple in the area after Borobudur) and detail, but also because we were the only people there. Some of our best vacation memories involve having historical sites all to ourselves; for example, East Mebon in the Angkor complex or Duffus Castle in Scotland. We could have stayed here for quite a bit longer had we not had a driver on the clock. For anyone visiting Prambanan in the future, do yourself a favor and make the extra 15-minute walk up to Candi Sewu.

After some rest time back at the hotel, we filled our day with more window shopping along the JL Malioboro. This was our third day in Yogyakarta, and we were finally figuring out the ebb and flow of street traffic and the art of crossing the street without colliding with motorbikes. It's not quite like Hanoi, because in Hanoi they don't want to run you over.

The previous night, on our way to the ballet, we asked the driver for recommendations of good, reasonably priced, casual food near the hotel. His strong recommendation was Duta Minang, a multi-site Padang restaurant that happened to have a location right down the street. He made a point of telling us that the food was spicy. Sounded good, so that was our choice for the evening, even though we weren't all that hungry. It is a Halal restaurant and not one with a lot of English spoken (or any English, for that matter). We weren't sure what to do, so we sat down at a table and managed to order some cold water and ask for the menu (everyone who came in after us went straight to the front counter to order). The cold water arrived. Then, a waiter arrived with small plates with some of each item available in the restaurant--about 15 plates in total. Most of it looked great, but there was no way we were making a dent in that! We picked out three different plates of chicken (regular fried, spicy roasted, and curry), some greens, and some sautéed hot peppers, and enjoyed all that with rice. Just exactly what we wanted--and an interesting experience to boot! Oh, and the tab was the equivalent of about $11.

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